Lesson from the Sydney Harbor Bridge: The Relationship Between Structure and Function

I was in Sydney earlier this month. When I visited in August, I found two old friends who live in Sydney, and we had a delightful reunion over dinner. They offered to host me at their house on my next visit. I took them up on it this time around. On our first day touring around, we went to the Sydney Harbor Bridge and took the tour up the pylon on the south side where there is a bridge museum.

harborbridgeThe museum did a great job depicting the environment of the area in the early 1900’s that led to the bridge’s construction from 1928 – 1932. It also explained the construction process. What became clear to me in going through the exhibit was the separation of the structural components of the bridge and the functional components of the bridge.

The bridge was built to serve one function – to go over the water to get from one side of the harbor to the other. That is possible because of the road (or platform) – the functional component of the bridge that is driven on, walked on, and railroad tracks are laid on.

Then there are structural components to the bridge. The arc being the most prominent. You don’t use the steel arc to get from one side to the other. However, the surface that is traversed would not be able to support the weight of the traffic on it without the arc.

bridgephasesYou can see the relationship clearly between these two components – the functional traversal surface and the structural arc by looking at the series of drawings here which showed the order and sequence of the bridge construction.

You can see the structural component was built first – the arc. Without the arc, nothing else of the bridge would be possible. The roadway was then hung from the arch, to allow for the bridge’s function of getting people to the other side.

It has me thinking about the relationship between structure and function – in physical manifestations, but more in organizational systems and even marketplace systems (multiple organizations and individuals exchanging goods, services, and ideas).

Questions to provoke thought: What is the function of the different systems you interact in and with? What are the structural components? What is the relationship between them?

The Circular Economy And Why You Should Care About It

CaptureDo you know what the circular economy is? It’s different than the linear economy. Linear economies operate with Take -> Make -> Waste. Circular economies operate with Reduce -> Reuse -> Recycle. This used to be hippie-talk. And I know, because I used to be a hippie (still am, I’m told). What was missing was well presented economic inquiry and answers about it.

That is what ING, a reputable global financial institution, has done with their new report Rethinking Finance in a Circular Economy. You don’t need to be an economist to read and understand it. The information is relevant and accessible to anyone who is interested in creating a world that can thrive with the increasing consumption of the growing human race. And anyone that wants to take economic advantage of it.

What makes this paper so good is the visual representation of information. You can scroll through reading headings, looking at pictures, perusing captions and learn a lot. Then dive into the paragraphs where you want more detail. Here is the link again:


I’ve really enjoyed it and thought it worth passing on.

Improve Your Goals in Three Steps

eldora_paintedGoals are an important part of professional development and life in general. We wouldn’t do much without goals, even if we are not conspicuous with ourselves about them. Goals are interesting because they are a means and an end. What we set to achieve is our goal (the end), and research shows that how we use goals (the means) makes a difference in our ability to achieve them.

In this post, I will review three aspects of making goals useful. They are:

  • Positively Frame Your Goal
  • Frame Your Goal as Deep as Possible
  • Find Your Activation Point

I will use a recent goal I had around skiing as the context. First, some background. I have been skiing since I was seven, and have been an advanced skier for pretty much my entire life. I wasn’t getting any better the past couple years until I set a goal and got a lot better the last few weeks of the season.

I have had a tendency to curl my toes in my boots when I ski, which leads to less control and decreased efficiency. In other words, you can’t turn as well and your muscles get tired more quickly. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided to make a conscious effort to avoid curling my toes.

Positively Frame Your Goal

The problem with my goal was that it was negatively framed – “don’t curl your toes”. It never works to not do something, you have to figure out what it is you do want. Therefore, avoiding curling my toes was not the proper way to frame the goal. Spreading my toes out, radiating them outward and even upward (the exact opposite of curling) – that is how I positively framed my goal.

Frame Your Goal as Deep as Possible

As I started skiing with this positively framed goal, I first focused all my attention on my toes, and as soon as I noticed them starting to curl, I radiated them outward. Then I realized that radiating did not start with my toes. I became aware that all my muscular strength radiated from my core, through my legs, into my feet, and poured through the entire surface of my feet and into my skis. My goal was going deeper, it was now to take all my strength and radiate it through my body in the act of skiing.

I quickly realized how this channel of energy and strength was quelled when my toes were in a curled position. This makes sense physiologically, because with my toes curled there was less surface for my body to exert force on my skis. Hence, you have to use more strength to move your skis the same amount.

Find Your Activation Point

Once you have the goal positively and deeply framed, it helps to have an activation point, or trigger, that alerts you to the fact that you have a goal and starts your internal process to achieve it. In this situation, it was noticing my toes were curled. This activated me to extend my toes, and start the process to engage my core and extend all the way through to the skis.

Before long, all thought about the goal and the process disappeared and I was gliding and flying down the slopes, through the bumps, over the ridges, wherever I was on the mountain. It was exhilarating! At times I even burst out laughing from the pure joy of it – the sound muffled by the wind of my downhill speed.

With my newly framed goal in mind, a couple days of practicing yielded a greater improvement in my skiing than I had seen in the past ten years. It was also the most fun I’ve had skiing in the past ten years. I brought myself to the experience of skiing which created a new sense of freedom.

It started me thinking about other areas in my life where I am not using goals as effectively as I could.  It begs the question how has that impacted the quality of how I bring myself to the challenge in front of me. And how when I’m learning and getting better, I have more fun.

How to Best Give to Nepal

The Nepal earthquake is devastating. The choices to give for those of us who want to support the Nepalese can be overwhelming and confusing. My belief, that is shared by many others, is that giving locally to individuals and small organizations in the impacted region is the best way to get the most relief for your money to the people affected the most.

My friend Noah Howard has an import business, Ark Imports, that produces goods in Nepal for sale on the web and in retail specialty stores. He has started a fund-raising campaign. In his words “I am raising money to send to people I know and trust in Nepal who will give the $’s directly to those in urgent need.” Noah is very trustworthy and I have donated funds through his campaign. If you want to give, I ask you to consider this too.


Strength is the Source of Challenge

20150314_152304I arrived in Sydney yesterday and have been reminded of a valuable lesson in my first day. I’m here visiting the global headquarters of Avoka Technologies. As I explained in a previous post, I am the VP Client Services North America at Avoka, and while my team is all in the US, there are many people I work with on a daily or weekly basis here in Australia. The office is in a northern suburb of Sydney called Manly. Sydney is deep into Sydney harbor, which has a lot of mini-peninsulas. This is relevant to the rest of this post, so I have included a map here so you can see what I mean:


I flew in, and took the train to the Sydney wharf, and then took a ferry to Manly. A friend, who lives in the area, met me for lunch and took me on a walking and driving tour around the area that I have circled in red.

I had a great time being shown around and educated on Sydney and Australia. One thing that came up is how difficult it is to get around the Sydney area because of all the waterways. The bridges and tunnels available create a bottleneck for getting across the water, thus making traveling from one place to another more difficult.

What is interesting is that all the water, and how much coastline you get from all the bays and mini-peninsulas, is one of the most alluring and attractive characteristics of the area. There are so many coastline cliffs, peaceful bays, and rocky outcroppings with amazing views:




I come across this all the time – strength is also the source of challenge. My friend mentioned a lesson he learned about this from his dad when his career was early on. When he was having difficulty with some people he was managing, his dad asked him to think about what their greatest strengths were, and helped him see that their greatest strengths were on the other side of the coin to the challenges in working with them. I have found this to also be true as I have worked to make myself better at what I do. Where I need to improve and my biggest strengths are mirrors of each other in important ways.

When looking to overcome any challenge, the first thing I do is look at the strengths available that can be used as resources in rising to the challenge. I take this approach when dealing with issues in organizations, relationships, technology, individuals – anywhere, really. I have noticed the pattern of challenges arising from strength in all of it.

I invite you to consider the relationship between your greatest strengths and your biggest challenges, and see if it is useful.

How To Use LinkedIn to Land a Great Job

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Here is the link to an article I wrote on LinkedIn, about how to use LinkedIn in a job search:


Here is the introduction:

LinkedIn enabled me to land a great new job. On December 1, I started as the Vice President Client Services for Avoka Technologies. Avoka’s products improve how customers interact with your company over the web on desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

I could go on for a while about how well Avoka is doing and what a great fit the role is for me, but the intention behind this post is to tell the story of how I wouldn’t have the job if I didn’t effectively use LinkedIn. I will also highlight key lessons learned that others can follow.

Please click on the link above to read the full article.

(above image credit here)

The Bastardization of Customer Success

Please see my guest post on the Totango blog:


Totango is one of the leading Customer Success products. For those of you unaware, there is an entire technology domain dedicated to building tools to help with the effort of Customer Success. It is a fast growing space, and I had the pleasure of meeting some folks from their team while they were on their tour-stop in Denver.